How do I begin to share one of my most favorite events in the world? The Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival is gorgeous, well-planned, filled with some of the world’s best known chefs, wineries, and Newport’s finest restaurants. It’s where I stood inches from childhood favorite Jaques Pepin two years ago, where I tasted the very special Nicolas Feuillate Palmes d’or on Saturday, and where I always have an incredibly fun day with good friends.
Sponsored by Food & Wine Magazine, the festival is a wine and food lover’s dream come true. It would take me a week to share the entire grand tasting, so I thought I would just share some of the highlights. And I will note that I did attend the event as a trade representative for my company, Pop! Marketing Communications, so my entrance to the event was free.
The setting of any event is important, and the grand tasting, set at the Marble House mansion in Newport, is pretty spectacular. More of the front of the house can be seen in this post, but I am all about the “back yard” of the Marble House. Rolling green, with the blue ocean below, trees that must be a hundred years old, and a pagoda in red and green that adds an unexpected exclamation point to the beautiful, classic Newport space. When we arrived, thick fog blanketed the space, making the sea invisible, and we were glad it burned off by the time the event was in full swing.
Rows and rows of wine, spirits, and food, along with some crafts and other items for sale lined the space under the large white tent. Here’s what I loved most:
And of course bubbly. We found every table pouring bubbles and gave each one a try.
My favorite was by far the rare Nicolas Feuillate Palmes d’or, but theCalifornia-made Domaine Carneros Brut was also a sparkly pleaser, with its lemony acidity and lovely toasty notes. I also love what Domaine Carneros has to say on their site about calling their wine Champagne, as a side note.
“The U.S. failed to sign the 1930s labeling agreement limiting use of the word “champagne” to wines from the Champagne region of France, so some American wineries feel free to call their wines champagne.
Although our wines are made in the classic manner, “méthode champenoise”, Domaine Carneros exhibits pride of place, choosing to use the name of our own great region rather than replicating someone else’s name.”
And a new to me sparkler, not made in the Champagne method, was from Toad Hollow. Their Risqué , made from 100% Mauzac, is a steal at $14.99 a bottle, fruity and crisp, like biting into a fresh apple, with enough acidity to make it perfect with food. A great Thanksgiving wine, if you are thinking of that already.
This non-alcoholic sparkling beverage from 12 provided a nice, refreshing break. The blanc is flavored with ginger, citrus, and herbs and was delicious by itself but could also be used as a cocktail mixer.
What goes better with Champagne and sparkling wine than Matunuck oysters and mignonettes? It is officially time to eat oysters again, and we slurped them up.
The still wine standouts for me were the Bergstrom Sigrid Chardonnay with layers of vanilla, caramel, and peach flavor , the Caymus Chardonnay (aged in concrete), and the Merriam Jones Cabernet Franc.
The Cab Franc, peppery and fruity, was one of those red wines that offers so much flavor and texture, layer after layer of dark berries and a hint of earthiness like dried leaves. Loved it.
I also loved this autumnal cocktail made with Vermont Spirits vodka which is made from maple sap. How cool is that? The Quechee punch was made with the Vemont Gold Vodka, apple cider, five spice syrup, lemon juice, and sparkling wine. It had a citrusy, spicy, apple-y flavor, perfect for a fall evening. With all of the devastation caused in Vermont by Irene, I was happy to see a Vermont business at the event, thriving and sharing its delicious spirits with attendees.
And then, of course, there was food. I actually ate more this year than I drank, which is a good thing. From Alexian pate to Hudson Valley Foie Gras, there was no shortage of gourmet products, sourced and made by small companies.
I would never miss a chance to eat Kerrygold butter and cheese, and I definitely enjoyed these samples.
I don’t remember who made these little cups, but aren’t they beautiful?
The pagoda in the back of Marble House hosted a feast by Dave’s Marketplace. I had some cheese and veggies, along with a chicken meatball, chicken potstickers, and a giant stuffed quahog, or stuffie.
And then headed back into the tent for more deliciousness like this spicy, refreshing, addictive watermelon gazpacho from Seasons at the Ocean House.
And these crostini with chicken sausage.
I washed it all down with some creamy lobster bisque.
We finished the afternoon by sitting out on the back lawn, sipping St. Germain cocktails in the early Autumn sun before heading into Newport for more fun and beautiful vistas. What a great town Newport is, with its classic architecture and gilded age hisory, ocean views, sleek sailboats, and love of great wine and food. Another spectacular Newport Mansions Wine & Food Festival under my belt, another day of fun, education, and delights, and I can not wait until next year.